A chat with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright of “The World’s End”

If you’re a geek, then odds are actor/writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and writer/director Edgar Wright are superstars in your world. Pegg’s face is known to geeks and mundanes alike as the comic relief Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” movies and the similarly amusing techie, Benji Dunn, in the “Mission: Impossible” films, but to many of us, that’s merely a footnote.

The now legendary Wright/Frost/Pegg collaboration began with the very funny 1999 U.K. sitcom, “Spaced.” It went worldwide with 2004′s horrifically delightful ur-zombie comedy, “Shaun of the Dead,” and the even more gleefully bloody buddy cop homage, “Hot Fuzz,” in 2007. Co-written by Pegg and Wright, the films’ sharp and hyper-imaginative direction and well-crafted, sincere screenplays gave us all hope that the ancient art of dramatic comedy was undead, at least.

While the trio remained best pals, their professional lives inevitably diverted. Frost and Pegg collaborated on the 2011 science-fiction comedy, “Paul,” with director Greg Mottola, while Wright took on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

Now, it’s time for the inevitable reunion. The third film in what is being called The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, a sly nod to the late auteur Krzysztof Kieślowski and a popular brand of ice cream cone, “The World’s End” might lack zombies and buckets of blood, but it’s easily the darkest of the three films. It’s also pretty clearly influenced by such wry post coming-of-age comedies as “Diner,” “The Big Chill” and, believe it not, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s great 1955 noir musical, “It’s Always Fair Weather.” (The latter two films played together at a recent film series curated by Edgar Wright at L.A.’s New Beverly Theater.)

“The World’s End” bring us a leather-jacketed Simon Pegg as Gary King, a bad boy well past his sell-by date who goads four old chums into recreating a 12 pint hometown pub crawl. As the film rolls on, the depth of Gary’s estrangement from his pals, especially his embittered, teetotaling ex-best friend Andrew Knightley (Frost), becomes increasingly clear. The fact that the boys’ old digs are the apparent seat of the imminent destruction of humanity via an alien invasion of mechanical humanoids actually lightens the mood.

“The World’s End” features UK acting stalwarts Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan as the rest of the gang, and Rosamund Pike as the girl who got away, all grown up. Critics, like our own Jason Zingale, are upbeat about the film’s quality, but the more downbeat tone of the tale it tells is inescapable.

We caught up with an intense and very tired Pegg, a laidback but slightly shagged-out Frost, and an ever enthusiastic but clearly exhausted Wright, whose next film will be the long discussed “Ant Man,” at, where else, Comic-Con.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Greg Mottola (“Clear History”)

Greg Mottola first came to prominence as the director of the indie comedy “The Daytrippers,” but he began a much quicker rise in mainstream recognition when he helmed the comedies “Superbad” and “Adventureland.” Currently, Mottola is making the rounds to support his work as the director of Larry David’s new HBO movie, “Clear History,” but he’s not entirely confident if the word “director” really sums up his efforts on the film. Bullz-Eye chatted with Mottola during the TCA press tour, and we talked about how surprisingly easy David is to work with, how he came to appear in a couple of Woody Allen films as an actor, and what a hassle – and what fun – it was to make “Paul.”

GregMottola

Bullz-Eye: So directing Larry David has got to be at least somewhat of a challenge.

Greg Mottola: Um…

BE: I’m not saying good or bad, just…challenging.

GM: It’s… Well, I mean, the process was so specific. I don’t even know if my job title should be called “director” on this movie. [Laughs.] “Associate collaborator” is probably closer to it. But that’s the way it should be. I’m not sure if, in the press notes, they talk so much about how we made it, but essentially it’s the same way Larry does “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” with some key differences. But Larry writes a script-ment, they call it, so this was about 35 pages of paragraphs of what happens in this scene, with an occasional line of dialogue or joke that Larry or his co-writers thought, “Oh, we should definitely get that in.” So they write that in, but, really, no other dialogue.

And we get to the set, we walk through the scene, and we’ll just sort of block it very generally. Like, “You’re gonna enter from that door, you’re gonna be sitting here, you’re gonna come over here, talk about this, you’re gonna leave.” Y’know, just sort of walk through all the little bits of blocking, but never rehearse it at all. So the first time anyone is acting, the cameras are rolling. And it’s usually two cameras, sometimes three if we can squeeze another one in there. And Larry by and large never does the same thing twice. [Laughs.] So as a director, you’re constantly strategizing, “Okay, we did that one time, I’d like to try and get something like that line, maybe in a tighter size, so…let’s switch lenses right now while we’re in the zone, and we’ll swap back and do wide shots again.” So you’re constantly just sort of improvising the directing style as everyone’s improvising the lines.

MottolaDavid

So directing Larry is just sort of endless conferences between takes about, “We’d like this from that, we didn’t like that,” just sort of honing in on what worked, sometimes stopping entirely and saying, “This doesn’t work at all, let’s start from scratch and just approach it completely differently and do a different version of the scene.” And that happened a few times. We’d have two completely different versions of the same scene…and usually the one that ends up in the movie is the second one. You know, the one thing about Larry is that he’s an absolute pleasure to work with. Despite his sort of screen persona and his point of view about human nature, which—between “Seinfeld” and “Curb”—is pretty clear… [Laughs.] He’s a really happy guy! He’s a guy who walks around whistling and practicing his golf swing. He’s, like, in a good mood 99% of the time. So it’s great to work with him.

BE: I…can’t really wrap my head around that.

GM: [Laughs.] It is hard to believe.

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Movie Review: “The World’s End”

Starring
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley
Director
Edgar Wright

Fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” have been badgering director Edgar Wright about the final installment in his self-titled Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy for so long that it seemed like it might never happen. Granted, it’s not really a trilogy at all, at least not in the traditional sense, but any time that good friends Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost get together is cause for celebration, and the long-awaited “The World’s End” is no exception. While expectations are undoubtedly high for their third (and hopefully not last) cinematic outing together, Wright and Co. have produced another excellent comedy that, although it falls a little short of their previous two films, still delivers all the laughs that we’ve come to expect from the trio.

Back in 1990, a group of high school friends embarked on a quest to finish The Golden Mile, a 12-pub crawl through their peaceful town of Newton Haven ending at the titular World’s End. They never made it that far, however, and more than 20 years later, it still haunts would-be leader Gary King (Pegg), who’s refused to grow up while the rest of his friends have gone on to build families and careers. While reminiscing about the good old days in group therapy, Gary decides to get the gang back together so they can finally complete the illustrious pub crawl, and seeing how much it means to him, Andrew (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) reluctantly agree to tag along. Upon their return to Newton Haven, they inadvertently uncover a secret invasion by robot-like beings that have assimilated most of the town’s inhabitants. When their attempts to blend in fail miserably, the guys are targeted by the robotic collective and given a choice: submit or die, but Gary’s not about to let that get in the way of him finishing the Golden Mile.

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